One of the gifts that OmegaDotter received was a box full of fluffy, feminine, second-hand dance recital costumes, carefully garnered from eBay. OmegaMom, on a quest, popped into her email on a regular basis, checking for the "Your watched item is closing soon!" messages from the mystic computer, then eyeballing the clock and scheduling a time to sit down, log in, and swoop in for the kill at the last possible minute, scoring spangled tutus and flippy skirts for much less than--as I now know--the cost of those costumes when new. (The dance studio requested the deposit for the costume for the May dance recital shortly before Christmas...OmegaMom choked when she saw the price, then wrote a check.)
OmegaDotter happily seized on the white, flowing recital costume and pronounced it a bride's dress, then insisted on overlaying it with the flippy silver lamé skirt edged with black. She opened presents in this costume, she played with her beloved horsies in the new barn and corral in this costume, and, later on, kept demanding a promise that she could sleep in this costume.
She was in Dress-Up Heaven.
Today, while cruising BlogPulse's top news stories, I came across a highly linked story titled "What's Wrong With Cinderalla?", in which a feminist mom with a three-year-old daughter confronts, and researches, the all-encompassing "Princess" trend--the Disney packaging of all the big heroines into one group, the Club Libby Lu phenomenon ("It's a Girl Thing!"), the Barbie princess brigade--and tries to figure out what it all means.
Is it an unconscious reaction by women raised in the 60s, 70s, and 80s against the dour feminism of the time? Are girls today becoming more conditioned to the feminine, passive female archetype? Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or simply natural? And--as many moms have asked--what the hell is it with the pink girl's aisle of toys and the primary boys' toys?
As a feminist, perhaps I should be ashamed of myself for getting the dotter that box of fluff. Maybe I am setting her up for a lifetime of passivity, an all-encompassing, subconscious belief that girls should be fluffy and flirty and beautiful and submissive, seeking the approval of Prince Charming, rather than being assertive, intelligent, and self-fulfilled.
On the other hand...
Well, hell, girls like to play dress-up. My mom did it. I did it. All my nieces and my cousins' little girls have done it. A few feather boas, some glitter and spangles aren't going to swallow my dotter into the maw of submissive femininity forever.
What I don't like about the Disney, Barbie, and LibbyLu paraphernalia is that it's so...so...set in stone. If you're going to play Cinderella, Disney proclaims, you have to dress this way, and no other; play this way, and no other.
Um, hell no. Sorry, guys. My princess will dress up in a mish-mosh of unmatched glamor, thankyewverramuch. See, real dress-up requires creativity and imagination, not prescriptiveness and scripted play. OmegaDotter spent a half-hour Christmas morning demanding I announce yet another dancer or ice skater (with a preference for the name "Sasha", after numerous viewings of YouTube clips of Sasha Cohen's 2002 Olympics long program). Then she'd sashay out from behind the Christmas tree, do a half-minute dance (usually featuring the dancer falling down at least once, just like in Cohen's program), and retreat behind the tree, motioning me to announce her yet again.
The princess paradigm may, indeed, condemn some girls to a particular worldview. But in this house, the frills combine with neighing, the fluff with faux karate kicks from Mulan, and the outside propaganda with some pretty strong parental counterpropaganda. In the end, the princess will be who she wants to be, taking some from both sides. Here's hoping there's a whole horde of girls who have that balance as they grow up.